Wednesday, November 22, 2006

its 6:50 AM in Aukland

We (and our luggage - woo!) have survived our Pacific flight!

A few notes:

I'm typing on a free computer in the termina. The keyboard has english and asian "letters" on it. Its confusing.

LAX is a hole. I've used nicer bathrooms on Bourbon Street.

We were very fortunate that we visited the United ticket counter a few weeks ago and got e-tickets. With e-tickets, they checked our bags all the way through to Christchurch. Otherwise, we would have had to a) only check our bag to LAX, b) get our bags at LAX c) take the terminal transfer bus with ALL OUR LUGGAGE to a new terminal. And re-check the bags. Having no checked bags was a definite plus. If this was The Amazing Race, we would have rocked this leg.

There was a family (I presume) of Maoris that I swear, were packing their entire house for shipment. Including a 42" plasma TV - still in its box. And 5 48"x24" grey tupperware roughneck containters. With the lids simply snapped on, as if that was sufficient. Yeah, I think they used 3 rolls of tape and stalled the line by 30 minutes getting those containers ready. Who does that? I'm just glad we weren't behind them.

Our flight was nice. Free movies (8" screen w/remote), free video games, free music. And FREE WINE! Yes, just what I needed. And the food was decent. My language lesson for the day: a blanket is known as a rug.

The staff were very helpful, seats were ok. The plane was a 777 and Will and I had a whole window section of seats to ourselves, so he sat by the window, I sat by the aisle, and all our crap went in the middle seat. I watched Devil Wears Prada. Will watched some car racing show. I ended up taking 2 lunesta and think I slept for 4-5 hrs. There was a baby who was screaming for a large portion of the flight (I felt bad for them), so I think I would have slept more if I didn't have to listen to that. I did listen to my mp3 player for most of the night and that helped. I think. We'll see how tired I am in 10 hrs.

I do have a lovely latte that I got for "take away" so that has pretty much made my day. Will is eating McDonalds. Ew.

Anyways, I'm now being jostled by this dude behind me wearing his huge backpack (put it on the floor, geez!), and Will has finished up his emails, so I guess we should find our flight to Christchurch!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

We're leavin' on a jet plane


We depart at 4 PM. Wooo!

We will have to endure a total of 26 hours of travel (flights and layovers). Our longest flight is 13 hrs.

Suprisingly, we don't have an ass-load of luggage. 3 checked bags. Total. And two backpacks.

Granted, we've got 2 large stuff-saks in there that can double as extra carry-on, if we need it. And, the large suitcase is only 2/3 full. Craziness, considering this is for 2.5 weeks.

Anywho, it will be at the very least a few days before I update the blog. Have a good Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Monopoly Money!

New Zealand dollars....

Look how pretty!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

1 week to NZ!

Ok, trip planning updates!!! And how I previously stated that I was going to try to keep this "itinerary free". Well, that's not happening. I now have a calendar with our route and stops blocked out. Its mainly b/c we want to do some really cool excursions and I fear that they'll book up. Which means we need to plan and figure out which day we'd want to do the excursion so we can book it now. So much for trying to be all spontaneous.... Now its only partially spontaneous. lol

We're going to do a half or full day wine tour here: This is the main wine making region in the country. We think its smart to take a tour, rather than us try to sample wine and try to drive this standard transmission RV on the wrong side of the road. See, I can be smart if I try!

We've booked a sea kayak trip with these people:

Its a guided 2-day catered tour, where you kayak during the day (and play with fur seals) then camp on the beach. Fun!

We're re-arranged our trip a bit, based on recommendations on someone I've found on the Lush Australia/New Zealand message board. Turns out she's a kiwi that lives on the South Island, who does travel bookings. What luck!

Originally, Will wanted to head here: basically a bunch of large round rocks on a beach. We'd be driving a good bit out of our way to see them, and I was wondering if it was worth it. I know we like taking pictures of rocks and everything, but this seems a bit extreme. My NZ person said that they were cool, but more as a "place to stop along the way" rather than "lets make it a destination" place. And its all farmland.
She instead suggested that we stay on the west coast and explore their glaciers - its the only place in the world where glaciers flow directly into rainforest.

We were going to drive over Arthurs Pass. However, we'd only be there to spend the night (and have the afternoon/morning to explore a bit) before we drove to those boulders. I'm thinking we'd have a lot more fun scrapping this stop for something really unique that would require a full day to explore (rather than driving half a day, then hiking b/c we feel obligated to do so, before we drive off some more)

I've got inquirys into a few companies:
She recommended these guys:

We'd either do a 3/4 day or a full day glacier hike, which gives us about 5-6 hours on the ice. Our guide book recommended Fox Glacier (about 1 hr down the road) - stating that there's fewer people who go there (Fox only has one licensed guide company, Franz has 2 - meaning there's double the people), Fox is cheaper, and that the hike to get on the glacier is 30 min and a medium ascent, vs 1 hr and a zig zag trail up the glacier face.

So, I've also made an inquiry to these people at Fox Glacier
I've asked about the full day tour (which has actually less ice time than the Franz tour) and the Helicopter tour. I think the helicopter tour could be *amazing*. However, I'm worried that there will be kids and annoying/whiny people who's fitness level isn't up to our standards. I'm almost betting that these types are attracted to the helicopter tour so they don't have to do the ascent or hike for as long.

My NZ contact has also recommended a helicopter tour at Mt Cook, which I think we'll do. I mean, this is the place to do a helicopter tour. And we have our 0% credit card. She also suggested that we visit this while we're in Mt Cook. Will really, really liked the observatory we visited last April in west Texas, so I think this would be a really neat opportunity. To see stars that we'd only get to see in the Southern Hemisphere.

And finally, we were trying to figure out which boat tour to take at Fiordland National Park Most people take the Milford Sound tour. But, me with my aversion to crowds and idiots, I'm thinking we'll do the Doubtful Sound tour. My contact recommended that we do both (which we don't have time for), but from the information I've found, the Doubtful Sound is definitely the less popular tour. Plus, you get a lake cruise and a power plant tour - in addition to the boat ride in the sound!

And then I'm still working on trying to get Will to go canyoning..... water slides down rocks in a canyon! Sweet! I can't imagine a better way to break bones!

We'll also do JetBoating in Queenstown and maybe bungee jump....

Monday, November 06, 2006

2 weeks before NZ!

Things are starting to fall into place..... sometimes its a bit like forcing a square peg into a round hole, but hey, why would things go easy for me just b/c I'm going on vacation...

I booked our tickets waaaay back in March, with Travel**** (think gnome). Why them, I really don't know. They had a good price with a very good itinerary. Problem #1 - they issued us paper tickets. Who issues paper tickets anymore? I never got a good reason for this, either. Some mumbo-jumbo about us flying on 2 different airlines or it being international, or arriving and departing from different cities. Whatevs. Being that we booked well, 8 months in advance, OF COURSE our itinerary changed. First, it was that our departing flight from Queenstown was bumped back and didn't allow us enough time to switch planes in Aukland. Fine. We switch our Aukland to LA flight to something later, and now we have a 4 hr layover in Aukland. Fine. Then our outbound LA to Aukland flight got bumped back an hour, meaning we wouldn't have enough time to clear customs and make it to our plane to Christchurch. Another call to the gnome call in center in India, another flight change. So, basically, the only paper tickets which are still good is our initial leg, from Houston to LA. Not really helpful. And since the gnome issued paper tickets, they can't re-issue them over the phone. Meaning we'd have to be there in person to get the correct tickets. They suggested arriving at the airport and EXTRA 2 hrs early to take care of this. Um, no thanks!

So, being me and slightly paranoid and OCD, we went to the airport this past weekend to get our tickets re-issued. This was complicated by the fact that we're flying Air New Zealand from LA to NZ and vice versa, and well, there isn't an ANZ counter in Houston. They were booked as "United, a partner to ANZ" so we strolled up to the United counter, thinking we were doing the right thing. A very confusing 20 minutes later (somehow the gnomes still kept our old flights, which we wouldn't have been able to catch AND booked us on new flights) the United agent managed to not only confirm our booking BUT ISSUED US AN E-TICKET! Yay!

Of course, I'll still be paranoid about "do we have the right itinerary???" but hey, at least now my paranoia isn't compounded by the fear of losing our paper tickets.

One of the "fun" activities we're going to do while we're down there is a 2-day sea kayak trip, catered with camping on the beach. We researched companies and decided on the one we liked best. A week ago, we booked on-line. 3 days later, no confirmation, so I emailed them. I finally got an email from them last night (6 days after booking) - telling us that sorry, they don't offer a trip on our requested day, and sorry, the website is wrong and you can't park your RV at X location for storage, you have to drive it to our facility 1.5 hrs away.

Again, me with the OCD, we have a trip calendar, which outlines where we'll be each night. Its mainly so we are able to see as much as we can without rushing or driving 12 hrs in one day. So, I break out the calendar, and the prospect of re-arranging things so we can take this kayak trip with this company one day later is making me hyperventilate. Badly. So, I email company #2 to see if they have availablity. And wow, they emailed me back 1 HOUR LATER telling me that they have 2 more openings for our requested days. Woo! I don't like their proposed itinerary as much, but hey, they responded quickly AND they confirmed the details posted on their website. Sounds like a winner to me.

And finally, clothing. I was really hoping I'd be a bit skinnier for this trip. But given the set back with my swim team, it hasn't happened. I should be happy to have maintained, really. But, I still wanted some cute casual clothes for the trip, so Will and I went shopping Saturday. It wasn't fun. Hardly anything fit, or if it did, I didn't feel like paying for it. It was depressing. But I did get some cute cargo pants and light weight khakis and even a pair of shorts.

I think we're just about set for the trip. I need to email the RV (excuse me, campervan) people to see if their vehicles have a cassette tape deck (so I can use my XM cassette adaptor for my MP3 player) and to see if they'll give us the phone number for our Vonaphone. We also need to exchange US money into NZ dollars. And book a wine-country tour.

And of course, I have to get my hair cut and highlighted. And do about 5 packing run-throughs.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

ok, I admit it, I suck

Sorry blog friends! I suck. I do! I'm a terrible blogger and internet buddy.

In the past month, I've been to NOLA twice, worked my ass off on a report, booked more things for my New Zealand trip, was sick for 4 weeks, tried out a different swim team, quit that swim team. And I haven't once updated you on my life. Again, I suck.

Will's racing Sunday, so I plan on getting my peeps caught up on what's going on in my world. Because I know you all care.

Or don't. I just need to get back in the habit of blogging.

Overheard in the gym locker room

So, no more swim team. (at least until my old team’s application to swim back at the ghetto school is approved). I was trying to swim with another team, but I didn’t like the pool or the coach or the members. So much for that! Then I tried swimming at the pool at my gym. Only the chlorine fumes made me nauseous – so, that’s not working either. My latest solution – spinning!

Anyways, I need to get on with the whole point of this post - a funny quip I overheard in the locker room, post-spinning. So, these two girls (skinny, cute, younger than me. Basically bitches). I guess they were both teachers and were discussing life and all that crap. Like “ohh, how great it is that we help kids!” then they segued on the topic from teaching kids to actually having kids. Here’s my attempt of capturing their conversation, although, keep in mind I’d just done an hour of spinning before the sun was up. And I hadn’t had coffee yet.

Skinny Bitch (SB) #1: So, you ever think of having kids
SB #2: yeah, I want kids. I’m ready for kids. But you know, I’m single. And I don’t have a boyfriend even. So, I don’t have a husband. So, I’m not sure how that would really happen. You want kids?
SB #1: [wrinkles face, looks in horror ] [editorial comment - maybe she’s not such a bitch? Just skinny? Nah, skinny = bitch]
SB #2: well, I suppose that working with kids all day makes you not want to have kids yourself.
SB #1: well, that, and you know, overpopulation. Just think if everyone had kids, what that would be like.
SB #2: wow, I know what you mean. Just think of how crowded all the restaurants would be.
Wow. Just wow. Forget the strain on the government, public resources, the planet, the environment. Remember, overpopulation’s most major threat is unnecessary over-crowding of public eating establishments.

And with logic like her’s (SB #2 teaches 6th graders…. shudder), maybe THAT’s good enough reason to not have kids. So that way your kids won’t end up having a teacher as ridiculously oblivious as she is.